We will be in reset mode in 2021. The past decade was characterized by a predictable digital wave putting the consumer front and center in the creation of culture and commerce. New brands and business models surfaced to address this new framework, disrupting laggards while creating newly minted heroes. A lot of what came from this digital boost has been very good, such as the rise of personalization, self-expression and community building. A lot of it, unfortunately, not so much, starting with the poor state of our mental health tethered to a rapacious culture of always-on social media connectivity.
The latest upcoming disruption will be a human reckoning to take control over the technology we so swiftly embraced. The best brands will make the human experience the blueprint for exploration, innovation, collaboration and augmentation.
The bubble we’re about to see burst is a response to a lack of accountability. Examples abound: D2C players lacking sustainable business fundamentals; the exhausting shopping experience triggered by all things fast and cheap, including modern staples such as fast fashion and click-bait media; and the extreme robotization of our day-to-day experiences. The latter is perhaps the biggest catalyst for the latest upcoming disruption: a human reckoning to take control over the technology we so swiftly embraced. The best brands will make the human experience the blueprint for exploration, innovation, collaboration, and augmentation.
Think: the power of purpose and ethos; the art of bold moves and shifts; personalization as an empowering element; AI-assisted, soft design interfaces; unexpected creative collaborations.
Four macro transformative shifts reflect how humans are hitting the reset button on how they engage with the world.
1. Forager State
We will see a collective push-back against the numbing effect of extreme automatization. We will see it in the allure of the messiness of discovery. This prompts the rise of off-the-grid living, extreme natural getaways, the popularity of foraging, farming, plant-based products; and extreme sports. We also see this as nations and societies search for a hint of the future by going back to their roots, with both positive and negative results. The aesthetic code around this shift is also deeply inspired by nature, the cosmos and anything that feels undiscovered.
Think: the power of surprise and the unexpected; explore immersive sustainability; explore local and community-driven power; map out ways to give consumers the thrill of the search; explore the power of the elusive.
2. Imperfect Mode
Society continues its shift towards a more relaxed take on what is beautiful and worthy. There is a rise in the greater appreciation of things in their natural, unfiltered state. We see this in the natural beauty movement and an overall sense of design that is more unfinished. This shift will prize what is still in formation or mutation. It will also reveal what lies under the surface. Transparency will be both a code of conduct for better brands but also a more literal design element. We will also see a broader exploration of beauty and different forms of aesthetic codes coming from different parts of the world, challenging the notion of Western perfection.
Think: asymmetrical design; transparent design, body positivity and inclusivity, voluminous silhouettes, etc.
The antiestablishment, rebellious quality of the past couple of seasons is giving way to a new sense of bold optimism fueled by a celebratory, self-affirming take on action. While the sentiment at play is still about bringing a change, the path is a more joyous one informed by ideals, self-expression and identity. We see color playing a key role with a heavy nod to nature along with the dreamy effects of the visual arts. It’s the influences of the ’60s blended with the participatory powers of today’s digital DIY ethos.
Think: continued role of the arts, especially poetry and musicals; continued maximalist expressions into movements such as activewear; the power of theatricality, immersive arts and narrative.
4. Circular State
We are returning to our sustainable core. We are finding our strength in what is restorative for mind, body and spirit. The environment plays both a symbolic and immediate role in this mindset as we look to nature to give us a sense of peace, harmony and protection. The Circular State is about being ingenious in terms of how we give back to the environment and to ourselves. Sustainability will continue to be play a center role in how the innovative and creative class thinks in terms of product development. The incoming consumer will expect better brands to marry style, functionality and circularity.
Think: journeywear or design that speaks to movement; true circular design; the intersection of wellness and style; next generation wearables; plant-based materials.
There is a cleansing, empowering benefit of hitting reset. As old models crumble, we are exploring all the various ways to start again. When everything seems the same, reinvention can be your most disruptive play.